By David Hennessy
Having eliminated the Leinster champions, Kilkenny’s Mullinavat, Kilburn Gaels will have respect for but no fear of Cappataggle of Galway when they meet the Connacht champions in Limerick this Sunday.
“We’re confident but we’re not cocky confident,” manager Tom Bergin tells The Irish World. “We know if we produce our best, we can beat anyone but at the same time, we have to perform. We’re under the spotlight a small bit after beating Mullinavat but we’ll just take it as another game and see how it goes.”
Stephen Lambert was the star of Kilburn’s 1-10 to 1-08 victory over the Kilkenny and Leinster champions at Ruislip in December with a personal tally of 1-08. Although London county hurler Lambert himself pointed out afterwards that his goal was “pot luck” (falling through the hand of a goalkeeper who had the sun in his eyes), Lambert’s reliable striking had a lot to do with Kilburn’s victory on the day.
Stephen puts his impressive tally at least partly down to luck: “It was kind of the way the game went really that Mullinavat were tending to bunch up the middle on us and it kind of allowed a bit of room on the wings. For some reason, it seemed to allow more room on my wing. It was just lucky in a way that when the rough ball started in the middle of the field, they were able to find me. It was as much luck as it was anything else.”
Tom Begin says: “On the day against Mullinavat, the only forward we had doing anything of real note was Stephen so really we’re looking for a better spread of scores from the rest of them. Mark and Killilea are danger men too when they get going so hopefully maybe the burden will be less on Stephen and more shared around. We’ll see.”
Stephen Lambert knows all about Cappataggle from his hurling with his home club Kilbeacanty in Galway: “We (Kilbeacanty)’re an intermediate club as well so since I’ve been sixteen, I’ve been playing against Cappataggle maybe two or three times a year so I’m fairly familiar and it would be nice to get one over on them because more often than not, we would be getting beaten by them.
“Cappataggle would still be considered favourites at this stage: The amount of training they’ve done in comparison to what we’ve done and obviously they have better access to matches and stuff like that. We only met once over the Christmas whereas they were probably training every second day and stuff like that so they would have a bit of an advantage over us over the Christmas period but it won’t be an excuse for us if we get beaten. We’ll give it our best shot. We certainly won’t fear them anyway, that’s for sure.”
Other Galway men in the Kilburn Gaels ranks include Kris Finnegam, Brian Regan and Keith Killilea.
Kilburn Gaels blazed their way through the London championship in unstoppable form last year, anninhalating Sean Treacys by 4-20 to 0-8 in the final as the goals came from Keith Killilea, Martin Duggan and goalkeeper Kris Finnegan.
Due to their county final resulting in a draw, Cappataggle were forced to play both their county final replay and provincial final on the same weekend making their double victory even more impressive.
One of the leaders in their second Intermediate county final match against Ahascragh/Fohenagh, which ended 0-19 to 1-08 in their favour, was the former Galway captain Damien Joyce although Cappataggle seem to have such leaders in many departments as their stopper is James Skehill who minded the net in Galway’s Leinster Championship-winning and All-Ireland final appearance season of 2012.
Half forward Darragh Dolan captained Galway to a Minor All-Ireland final in 2013 while Alan Dolan has also represented Galway and played in an All-Ireland intermediate final with Cappataggle before when he played in their 2009 defeat to Blarney. Daniel Nevin, Patrick Egan and Jarlath Mannion have also enjoyed impressive seasons.
Stephen says: “Players like Damien Joyce everyone knows about, he was a top inter-county hurler there for the guts of ten years and James Skehill as well. They have a lot of good young hurlers playing for the county minors, county Under 21s. They’re not relying on Damien Joyce to win games for them anymore. They have plenty of good hurlers coming through as well.”
Cappataggle then continued Galway’s dominance of the provincial intermediate championship, becoming the ninth straight winner from the county, when they defeated Ballyhaunis by 0-15 to 1-10.
Kilburn Gaels take on Cappataggle at 1pm Sunday January 25 at Limerick Gaelic Grounds. The winners in this semi-final will take on either Cappoquin of Waterford or O’Donovan Rossa of Antrim in the February 15 final.